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Overburdened, Undersupplied: America’s Teachers Rush to Fill the School Supply Gap

By Communities In Schools Aug. 25, 2015

Washington, DC.  - Aug. 25, 2015 -   As millions of students prepare to head back to school, teachers across the country are scrambling to stock classrooms and help fill backpacks with school supplies, particularly for students in need. 

According to a poll this summer of 700 teachers by Public Opinion Strategies and Communities In Schools, 91% of teachers reported spending their money on school supplies for students last year. This school year, many will be expected to do more.

“Teachers, dealing with kids who are increasingly poor, have taken it upon themselves to do everything in their power to help, including digging deep into their pockets for supplies and other things that students should have,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.  “It's wonderful that they do this, but it's time that teachers get the tools they need to make a difference in the lives of every child."

The pressure to fill the school supply gap is being felt more acutely because cash-strapped schools are also turning to families to stock classrooms with other materials including copy paper, disinfectant wipes and tissues. That’s creating a burden on the families of low-income students, who now make up the majority of children in public schools.   

“Across the country, teachers, community members, businesses and communities of faith are working together to help alleviate this simple but critical effect of poverty. Without proper classroom tools, poor students are at an even further disadvantage compared to their more affluent peers,” said Dan Cardinali, president of Communities In Schools. “Hard-working teachers and the working poor can’t be expected to fill the gap alone.”

Communities In Schools, which uses trained site coordinators to bring resources into schools for low-income students, is encouraging communities to support local school supply drives across the country to help provide school supplies for students and classrooms.

CIS joined with AFT in releasing quick tips for those able to help struggling students and overburdened teachers:

  • Contribute to local school supply drives in your local community
  • Donate gently used backpacks to neighbors in need
  • Purchase paper, pencils and basic supplies in bulk and contribute extras to the classroom
  • Contact local affiliates of Communities In Schools, your local teacher/school support staff unions, or other organizations to offer donations
  • Work with the PTA and school administrators to help create manageable supply lists.

The tips can come in handy for all families this year. According to an annual survey created by Huntington Bank, families will spend $642 for elementary school students, $918 for middle school students and $1,284 for high school students for both school supplies and extracurricular activities this year.


About AFT

The AFT represents 1.6 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators. Learn more at

About Communities In Schools:

Communities In Schools (CIS) is the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization, dedicated to doing whatever it takes to help students succeed in school and achieve in life. Operating in more than 2,400 schools in the most challenged communities of 25 states and the District of Columbia, Communities In Schools serves nearly 1.5 million young people and their families each year.  Based directly inside schools throughout the country, Communities In Schools connects students and their families to basic and critical educational and community-based resources, tailored to each student’s specific needs.  Learn more about Communities In Schools at


About Communities In Schools

Communities In Schools (CIS) is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to empowering at-risk students to stay in school and on a path to a brighter future. Working directly inside more than 2,300 schools across the country, we connect kids to caring adults and community resources designed to help them succeed. We do whatever it takes to ensure that all kids—regardless of the challenges they may face—have what they need to realize their potential.